Heather Humphreys unveils new plan to boost business in small towns and villages

Counties can apply for grants to fund renewal projects under action plan for rural Ireland

Some €10 million in funding will be made available to local authorities across the country this year to promote the regeneration of rural towns and village.

Each county will be able to apply for grants to fund up to eight separate projects supporting business and community initiatives in rural Ireland.

Local authorities have been invited to submit outline plans to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in September for approval.

Launching the action plan this morning, Minister for Regional Development Heather Humphreys said that the economic downturn has had a “significant impact” on towns and villages nationwide.

"I am launching the renewal scheme to begin breathing life back into our rural towns and villages," she said.

"It is critical that towns and villages become areas where economic activity can flourish, where people can live and work, and where people can meet at a social level.”

Minister Humphreys said she had more than doubled the allocation for the scheme this year, from €4 million to €10 million.

Up to 200 towns and villages across the country are expected to benefit from the funding.

Some €380,000 will be available to each of the 26 counties for renewal projects.

Funding will be allocated to local authorities to meet up to 85% of the total cost of each project.

The scheme will be administered through councils, which will be required to partner with local businesses and communities to develop initiatives that can make a “real and lasting impact” on rural areas.

A particular focus is being placed this year on supporting smaller towns with populations of less than 5,000.

The maximum grant for any single project is €100,000.

The department said the type of projects that can be funded under the scheme could include measure to:

  • increase the attractiveness of the town or village as a local commercial and social centre, and increase its sustainability as a place in which to live and work;
  • enhance its environment and amenity in the interests of residents, businesses and visitors;
  • enhance the culture and local heritage assets of the town/village and promote tourism;
  • tackle minor physical infrastructural deficits and land assembly issues.

Full details of the scheme will be made available to local authorities in the coming days.